Financial Advice

How to Stop a Typo From Wrecking Your Credit

Q. I just received a replacement credit card from a retail store. My name was misspelled on the new card (e.g., last name “Jones” misspelled as “Bones”). Other than the obvious need to contact the card issuer and have a new card issued with my name correctly spelled, are there any other steps I should take? Is there now a record created with the credit agencies under the misspelled name, and is that record tied through my Social Security number? Do I insist that the card issuer correct that error or must I do so?

A. You probably don’t have much to worry about, but you do need to act, or at least monitor, to avoid trouble.

Start by making sure you don’t activate the incorrectly spelled card, said Anthony Vignier, a Kearny, N.J.-based attorney and certified financial planner.

He said you should get the new card, and then check your credit reports in a month to see if the misspelled name pops up.

If it does, you shouldn’t rely on the card issuer to get things cleaned up, Vignier said.

“You can send a simple letter to all three credit agencies — Equifax, TransUnion and Experian — explaining the situation and asking that the misspelled name be deleted from your record,” Vignier said.

He suggests all correspondence with the credit agencies be sent by registered mail, return receipt requested, then keep a copy of the letter and proof of mailing in a permanent file.

“If you have any issues in the future, especially if applying for a car loan or mortgage, you can show the letter to the lender, which should satisfy them,” Vignier said. “It will also show them that you are diligent in addressing problems and are serious and responsible about your creditworthiness.”

Indeed, lenders can be suspicious of someone who has too many aliases.

Vignier said having multiple names or “aliases” listed on credit reports occurs frequently because of marriages, divorce or misspellings.

He said some credit experts say that having multiple names does not affect your FICO score, while others say that having too many “aliases” or multiple names in your credit reports can lower your score.

“It’s best to play it safe if you have multiple names and contact the credit reporting agencies to clear it up in writing and asking them to delete those names that are wrong or not in use,” he said. “Doing so may actually help raise your FICO score.”

Vignier said it’s also a good idea to check your credit report at least once a year to catch any problems or discrepancies including whether your name is being reported accurately.

Gerri Detweiler, the director of consumer education for Credit.com, agreed that checking your credit reports in a month or two is the way to go.

“It’s possible he or she may see the variation of their name listed on the report, in which case he or she should dispute it directly with the credit reporting agency reporting the mistake,” she said. “I doubt it’s a big deal, and it’s very unlikely that it created a separate report, but it’s worth checking.”

[Editor’s Note: You can get a free credit report summary on Credit.com every month to monitor your credit scores and credit data for signs of changes.]

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This article originally appeared on Credit.com.

This article by Karin Price Mueller was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.

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